Employers Still Ask Intrusive Questions in Interviews

  • By Gwak Rae-geon

    May 24, 2023 08:39

    Labor laws prohibit employers from asking jobseekers discriminatory questions about things like their height, marital status, assets and professions of family members, but many still do.
    Violators face fines of W3 million to W5 million, but the offense is hard to prove and the law seems to have no teeth (US$1=W1,313).
    According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, 141 fines were slapped on employers from 2021 to March this year, and cases are steadily increasing -- 26 cases in 2021 to 60 in 2022 and 55 in just the first three months of this year.
    "Young workers are more concerned about protecting their privacy, but businesses appear to lag behind them in awareness."
    The rise is probably due to more young people reporting intrusive questions, rather than more employers asking them, but the reported cases are likely to be the tip of the iceberg.
    Asking jobseekers about things like their religion and blood type is not even covered by the law, even though a widespread superstition in Korea links blood type to character traits.
    One jobseeker downloaded an application form for a software developer in Seoul last September and found that he had to write down his height, weight, blood type and religion, which seemed to be beside the point.
    A nurse recently sat down for a job interview in a hospital and was asked by the employer what her parents do for a living, where she lives, what her husband does for a living and how much he earns. Interviewed in another hospital, she was asked if she lives in her own house or is renting. None of those questions were relevant to her job, but there are no regulations barring them.
    Gender discrimination also persists in job ads. The ministry checked 14,000 ads on employment portals since September 2022 and found that 5.8 percent contained discriminatory terms, such as "looking for men 172 cm or taller who are easy on the eye" or "we favor women."
    A ministry official said, "We want to drastically strengthen regulations to root out improper private questions in the recruitment process."
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